Doctor Duvel

I'm like a sommelier, but for beer.

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Location: Upstate New York, United States

Favorite Beers: Orval, Samuel Smith, Duvel, Hennepin, Oude Gueze, Chimay, Dogfish Head, Anchor Steam, and anything made by Trappist monks.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

New Belgium Trippel

Katrina kindly tossed this my way as I was packing up and leaving Berkeley. New Belgium is an interesting brewery. I had the experience of trying Fat Tire once or twice before it turned into swill. Used to be a lovely beer. The last time I had it was on tap in Davis, CA, and it was, like, not even done fermenting. It was just miserable shit. Their other beers can be great though.

Their Trippel (that's how they spell it) is only 7.8% alcohol, which, in a way, is cheating. At the lower a.b.v. this kind of thing'll mature much quicker than, say, Westmalle Tripel at 9 or 9.1. I'm thinking that's got to be at least partly a concession to economics.

It's very pale, with lovely clarity and a pillowy white head--which could last a little longer. The nose is pretty smooth, with some nice, lightly fruity esters and a whiff of Saaz. Very soft and subtle on the palate. They did a nice job avoiding excessive maltiness which is sometimes a problem with new-world tripels, although, again, the lower alcohol content makes that easier to pull off.

This actually reminds me a little of my own last batch of Belgian strong pale--which is also pretty soft and subtle, used Saaz, and probably had around the same gravity. . . So, anyway, NB's tripel is a pretty beer and I think it's brewed very well. If you're keeping score, I'm not that big on their Dubbel, or Abbey, or whatever they call it, but I like the Singel a lot. 1554 is not bad. Loft is nice. I wish I could get my hands on their uber-exclusive, weird, oak-vat-aged beer, La Folie, but I've never seen any.

The reason I thought I'd have a tripel is that I think I'll be brewing one next Tuesday if I can free up the time. I have a 3787 yeast cake to use. With that in mind, tired and disinclined to grade more, I'll sample my old tripel. I did one last April and, for lack of a catchy name, it's come to be called "First Tripel." With the NB one fresh in mind . . .

Mine has a better head--better textured, longer lasting. The color is a deeper gold, which is probably a flaw. I used 2 lbs of Munich because the base recipe in Randy Mosher that I was vamping off of used it. That'll be the first thing to go when I try it again. Why add rich malt character when the whole point is to brew a beer that is low in malt character while being high in alcohol?? It is a pretty color though.

The nose is pretty subtle. Malty underlayer; light phenolics; definite spiciness (hints of cumin, coriander, slight pepper). It's 9.4% a.b.v., so this beer is operating on a slightly different wave-length than the new Belgium instance. It's quite a bit fatter on the palate, though it's pretty well attenuated (FG: 1011).

This is a pleasant and interesting beer, but it's not really what I intended. I was trying to make, without really having any idea how, a loose clone of Westmalle and I missed by quite a bit. I have one bottle of the ultimate commercial exemplar in the basement and will probably try it in a day or two for inspiration. Anyway, the first attempt at the style was not all that bad--at least it's pretty dry and has some complexity. Belgian tripel is a really tough number and they take just forever to mature. Oh well--I'm dumb enough to keep trying at least a batch a year. More on formulating take two in a few days. Hey, that's not a bad name: Take Two Tripel.


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